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Natasha Morgan and Family

Homes

Transforming a dream into reality, landscape architect and urban designer Natasha Morgan left behind her career and life in Melbourne to create Oak & Monkey Puzzle, a design, event and horticultural-focussed property just outside of Daylesford in Victoria, where she now lives with her two children.

Beneath 160-year-old oak trees, Natasha Morgan spoke with Fiona Killackey about home renovations, fulfilling dreams, the magnificence of nature and the delight that comes with living off the land.

TDF’s gardens columnist, Georgina Reid of The Plant Hunter, also took a tour of Natasha’s property earlier in the week. You can read her story on the beautiful grounds here.

18th January, 2017

The house sits in a quiet locale, back from the road. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The moody central dining room features the original Post Office earth wall. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Natasha selected Dulux Vivid White for internal walls. Aboriginal painting is Women Body Paint by Audrey Brumby, alongside 1800s French ladder-back rush chair, timber benches from Leonard Joel, assorted wooden chopping blocks from Fryerstown Antique Fair, and vintage chest with assorted vintage stoneware. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Loungeroom dresser detail, with assorted vintage stoneware bought at markets, Vintage French stamp set from a French flea market, vintage stoneware mould from Mill Markets Daylesford, and pewter pieces from Manteau Noir, Daylesford. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Natasha’s lounge room showcases an antique French provincial dresser from  L J Tuddin Antiques, Inverloch. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Assorted vintage copper pots, Sophie Moran teapot from Bokeh, Daylesford, and kitchen cupboards from IKEA. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The mudroom houses Natasha’s preserves, including the popular Elderflower Cordial (see her site for stockist details). It also features a vintage dresser, vintage fruit baskets from Mill Market, Daylesford, Fowlers Vacola jars inherited from her grandmother, and Falcon Enamelware. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

‘One of the first parts we completed was this small alcove in the kitchen’ says Natasha of the area above the existing vintage woodstove, ‘I would stare at it and think, at least one part of this renovation is done!’ Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The bathroom offers one of the most spectacular views from the house onto the sprawling garden and workshop areas. It features a vintage mirror, assorted vintage stoneware, antique pewter candlestick holder from Tyabb Antique Market, Carrara marble bench sourced from stone yard in Brooklyn, and sink from Schots Emporium. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Creative corner in Natasha’s master bedroom. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Natasha used Dulux Vivid White in Low Sheen for her bedroom. The antique timber corbel is from Camberwell Market, with antique rush seated stool, Iosis velvet cushions, Bedouin Society linen, vintage rice canisters and Haby Bonomo Pour Genevieve Levy Edition pillow slips all from Manteau Noir, Daylesford. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

An ornamental bird cage sits atop a vintage chest in a bedroom. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Cute curios and handmade creations adorn walls. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Large windows provide vantages of the spectacular grounds. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Colourful paintings and drawings feature in the children’s room and playroom. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The bright and airy bathroom. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Landscape architect and urban designer, Natasha Morgan with her two children Saffron and Oliver.  Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

The purpose built Oak & Monkey Puzzle workshop area, in the sun-drenched top corner of the garden. Photo – Caitlin Mills for The Design Files.

Fiona Killackey
Wednesday 18th January 2017

Breathtaking. That’s the first word that comes to mind when you pull off the seemingly endless Ballan-Daylesford Road and into Oak & Monkey Puzzle, a property renovated by Natasha Morgan. Set back from the bitumen, the stark, white weatherboard home stands out against a backdrop of soaring gums and age-old oaks. Acting not only as a home for Natasha and her two small children, Oak & Monkey Puzzle is also a buzzing place of business. In collaboration with other local creatives, Natasha hosts events, workshops, shoots and even weddings on the property, as well as utilising the spectacular garden to grow flowers for a local florist collective, and a host of produce for her popular preserves.

‘I had dreamt about owning a place in the country since my early days at Uni, and had been passively looking for about eight years,’ says Natasha. Initially searching for a weekender, Natasha changed her mind when she and her partner stumbled upon an almost derelict property, housing what was originally the Spargo Creek Post Office, built in the 1860s by Swiss-Italian builder, Mr Spargo. ‘I stood there under those towering trees, and felt the dream had to happen somehow’ she says.

Utilising her skills as a landscape architect and urban designer, Natasha created all the drawings for the new home, with work carried out by herself, her partner, and various tradespeople. ‘It was so rundown… we had gaps in the walls where bats would fly in’ Natasha recalls. One of the renovation highlights was discovering the original post office walls. ‘You can actually see the builder’s fingerprints in the earth… I love to put my own hands on this and imagine it back then.’

Merging the best of a Gold Rush-era structure with a crisp palette of white, black and charcoal, the home brings together an endearingly ad-hoc edit of vintage collectables and contemporary details. ‘I like to think of the home as an experience you inhabit, rather than a collection of things’ says Natasha. 

At one end of the home is a master bedroom with new parquet flooring and artwork from Josh Bowes, alongside an all-white bathroom with a spectacular view to the garden via an oversized window. At the centre of the home is a dramatic dark dining room, featuring that original exposed earth wall from the original post office. An all-white kitchen leads onto Natasha’s mudroom, where she stores her preserves. At the front of the house is the lounge room, featuring a wall of vintage and contemporary art, as well as Natasha’s collection of vintage pewter and stoneware. Her children’s room is a mixture of vintage and new, bursting with colourful paintings and wooden toys.

‘I love it here,’ says Natasha. ‘What started as a dream has turned into more than I could imagine!’

Natasha hosts workshops and events at Oak & Monkey Puzzle throughout the year, click here to see upcoming dates and details. This year the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival’s Regional Longest Lunch – Daylesford will be held on the property, with proceeds going to the Daylesford Primary Kitchen Garden Program.

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The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.